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Egypt blocks Twitter [and possibly Facebook] after day of rising protests

Twitter was inaccessible in Egypt on Tuesday in what was believed to be a move by the government to thwart protesters using the social network in a campaign to oust President Hosni Mubarak.

After days of rising tension and public anger inspired by the Tunisian “Facebook Revolution”, events finally began to spill over on the streets of Cairo.

The US-based microblogging service was out of service in Egypt on Tuesday, according to the herdict.org tracking website recommended by Twitter.

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment on what was causing the service outage in Egypt.

The news came as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Egypt, facing down a massive police presence to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in protests inspired by Tunisia’s popular uprising.

Twitter and Facebook were among internet social networking services reportedly being used by protesters to share information and coordinate activities.

The protests were the largest and most significant since riots over bread subsidies shook the Arab world’s most populous nation in 1977, analysts said.

In Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, thousands of protesters chanted in unison: “The people want the ouster of the regime.”

Despite some 20 000 to 30 000 police being deployed in the center of the capital, demonstrators had broken police barriers to march towards the square, where police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse them.

The protest, called by the pro-democracy youth group the April 6 Movement, coincided with a national holiday to mark Police Day. – AFP

UPDATE:
“According to a number of tips we’ve received in the past few minutes, the chatter on Twitter and several local reports (mostly in Arabic), it appears Egyptian authorities have moved to block Facebook,” reports TechCrunch, the US-based tech news and analysis site.

Whether or not Facebook has been blocked is yet to be confirmed, however it’s hardly surprising. The social network has been used as tool of organisation for many protests in Egypt and many other around the world. There is Facebook Group called We Are All Khaled Said, which features up-to-the-minute updates on the protests and photos from the scene.

The site states that it has “contacted Facebook to confirm if the social network has been blocked and will update when we hear back.”